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AZ Interfaith Succeeds in Push for Stay-At-Home Extension, Responds with Hopeful Caution

After hundreds of VIP clergy and leaders, through a petition with their state Arizona Interfaith Network (AIN), called on Governor Ducey to extend the Stay-at-Home order past April 30, the Governor announced an extension of the Executive Order, with gradual loosening of current restrictions over coming weeks. 

Clergy representatives of AIN responded with a statement of cautious approval:

"May 15 could very well be a premature re-opening of the state, but we appreciate that the state will proceed cautiously and in accord with CDC guidelines. We could face a disastrous rebound of the Covid-19 crisis if we are not careful and vigilant. This is no time for false optimism. There is only one path to safety and that is an escalation of testing capacity."

Arizona Interfaith Network Applauds Continuation of State OrderArizona Interfaith Network [pdf]

Ducey Extends Stay-At-Home Order Through May 15 But Eases Some Restrictions on Businesses, The Arizona Republic [pdf]

Religious Leaders Urge Ducey To Extend Stay-At-Home Order, KJZZ

 


'Coloradans for the Common Good', with Teachers Union, Pushes for Removal of Internet Barriers

[Photo Credit: Nathan W. Armes/Chalkbeat]

[Excerpts]

Comcast has made its low-cost program, called Internet Essentials, free for two months to families that qualify for programs such as food stamps or subsidized school lunches. But....undocumented families may not have the identification required to sign up for free internet service or may not feel comfortable providing it.

“We want to work with you to ensure equity of access for all of our students,” said a letter that the advocacy group Coloradans for the Common Good sent to Comcast executives Monday. “We hope to meet with you as soon as possible to discuss potential solutions.”

The letter was signed by faith leaders and the president of the Colorado Education Association, as well as the presidents of several local teachers unions, including Denver and Jefferson County....

To sign up for Internet Essentials, Comcast asks for a Social Security number. If a person doesn’t have one, Comcast instructs that person to take a picture of themselves holding their identification or to bring that identification to a company store.

Emilio Ramos, a social worker who works at two Denver elementary schools, said he’s heard from families where the parents are undocumented and don’t have a Social Security number.

He said parents are afraid that if they admit they’re undocumented and also provide their photo and personal information, that information could be flagged in Comcast’s system and shared with the government, making them a target for arrest or deportation.

...

Originally, the free internet was available to families who signed up by mid-May. Comcast has extended the deadline to June 30, a step praised by Coloradans for the Common Good, the coalition of labor union and faith leaders that pushed for the change.

Remove Internet Barriers for Undocumented Families, Colorado Teachers UrgeChalkbeat [pdf]pdf]

Some Undocumented Families Don’t Feel Safe Applying For Free Internet, Making Remote Learning Even More Difficult, Colorado Public Radio [pdf]

Wi-Fi holdup: Social Security question still a barrier, Colorado teachers sayChalkbeat

Press Conference VideoColoradans for the Common Good


MOC Successful in Expanding Renter Protections & Adding $1M in Rental Relief

Over the objections of commercial landlords, the Marin County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a resolution on Tuesday granting renters additional time to repay back rent in response to a push by Marin Organizing Committee (MOC) and allies.   As a result, residential and commercial tenants in Marin will have 90 days after a countywide moratorium on evictions expires on May 31 to repay back rent, plus added protections.

Said Reverend Tom Gable of Marin Lutheran Church and MOC:  

“We are particularly supportive of the new language that prohibits harassment, allows tenants to self-certify their inability to pay, and requires tenants to be notified of their rights before a landlord can take action in court.”

However, leaders continue to push for more.  According to MOC leaders, "90 days is an impossible timeline for renters to repay rent they missed during the shelter-in-place order. We risk spawning a second public health crisis if we allow Marin families to be thrown out of their homes as a result.”

Marin Tenants Given Extra 90 Days to Repay Back RentMarin Independent Journal [pdf

Marin Renters Allotted $1M More In Pandemic Aid, Marin Independent Journal

 


Arizona Interfaith Network Urges Gov. Ducey to Stay the Course on Stay-at-Home

[Excerpt]

Hundreds of Arizona religious leaders urged Gov. Doug Ducey to extend his stay-at-home order.

Ducey’s executive order, made over a month ago, is set to expire at midnight on Thursday, unless the governor modifies or extends it.

In a letter organized by the Arizona Interfaith Network, [including Valley Interfaith Project and Pima County Interfaith] religious leaders praised Ducey for issuing the order in the first place. Now the governor must avoid the “false calculus” that pits Arizona’s economy against peoples’ lives, they wrote.

"The economy should serve the common good and promote dignified, safe work, particularly for the most vulnerable,” the letter states. “This a moral decision, not just a business decision. We must do all we can to save lives; life is irreplaceable.”

Ducey faces pressure from Republican leaders in Arizona, including the head of the Arizona GOP, to reopen the economy as soon as possible.

But faith leaders stated that Ducey should rely on clear and convincing science — that means robust testing and contact tracing — to decide when it’s safe to reopen Arizona’s economy.

“The coronavirus will only be contained by broad testing and the application of our best public health measures,” they wrote. “The disease will not cooperate with deadlines imposed by us.  It will not respond to political calculations or wishful thinking, and neither should the state of Arizona.”

Religious Leaders Urge Ducey To Extend Stay-At-Home Order, KJZZ Radio [pdf]

Governor Ducey: The Stay-at-Home Order Saves Lives, Arizona Interfaith Network


TMO Successful in Pressing Harris Co. to Create $15M Pandemic Fund

[Excerpt below]

Low-income families, residents in the country illegally, victims of domestic violence and children aging out of foster care are the target audience for a $15 million coronavirus relief fund Harris County Commissioners Court created Tuesday.

The fund, proposed by Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis, aims to assist residents who are ineligible for federal aid through the CARES Act or for whom the $1,200 stimulus payments are insufficient.

....

Minister Jacqueline Hailey of the New Hope Baptist Church [which is a member of TMO] said housing is a particular area of need, as Friday marks the second time rent will come due since the pandemic reached the Houston area in March.

“There are 70,000 Houston renters who were unable to pay their rent last month, and there will be even more in May,” Hailey said.

[Photo Credit: Jon Shapley, Houston Chronicle]

Harris County Creates $15 Million Pandemic Relief Fund Aimed at Most Vulnerable ResidentsHouston Chronicle [pdf]


COPS/Metro Boosts San Antonio Relief by $9.2M for Total of $25M for Emergency Housing

[Excerpts below]

With a 10-1 vote, City Council increased its housing assistance program Thursday by nearly $25 million to help as many as 20,000 families pay rent, utilities, and internet bills and provide cash to purchase groceries, gas, and medicine as they cope with the coronavirus pandemic.

City staff originally proposed a $15.8 million COVID-19 Emergency Housing Program but, at the direction of Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1) and community advocates, the City was able to identify an additional $9.2 million from various city-related accounts. 

....

Linda Davila, housing co-chair for COPS/Metro Alliance, said the program represents a major step toward protecting vulnerable families. However, her the community organizing group's data suggests that 30,000 local residents now teeter on the brink of financial disaster. That puts the total need closer to $70 million.

"We're going to ask the county to match that [$25 million] if they can," said Davila, who represents St. Timothy Catholic Church. "Then we'll have to go after private dollars to fill in the gaps."

COPS/Metro began pushing city leaders two weeks ago to expand the emergency funding. Because local dollars added to the pot come with fewer restrictions, they'll be available to a larger number of local residents, including those without documents.

"We weren't going to let it go," Davila said. "We met with one councilperson after the other. We met with the city manager, the assistant city managers."

San Antonio, Bexar County Boost Housing Assistance 30 FoldRivard Report [pdf][pdf] 

San Antonio Council Votes for $25 Million Fund to Help Residents with Rent, Food and MedicineSan Antonio Current [pdf][pdf]

Commentary: It's Time for San Antonio's New DealRivard Report [pdf][pdf]

City Council Vote on Possibly Adding Millions to Housing Assistance FundFOX San Antonio [pdf][pdf]


DAI Leverages $13.7 Million in Short-Term Housing Aid for Covid-19 Impacted Families

After Dallas Area Interfaith (DAI) mobilized judicatory leaders and clergy from every major religion in Dallas, and the Apartment Association of Greater Dallas, to testify in support of short-term supports for low-income renters and homeowners, the City of Dallas authorized about $13.7 million for short-term rental and mortgage assistance programs.  $6 million will be dedicated to direct income support for Dallas residents left out of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) Act.  Another $1.5 Million will be entrusted to nonprofits to distribute.  

Speakers who testified in support of this local aid included Bishop Edward Burns and Auxiliary Bishop Gregory Kelly of the Catholic Diocese of Dallas, Bishop Michael McKee of the North Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church, Bishop Erik KJ Gronberg of the Northern Texas - Northern Louisiana Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America and Rabbi Kimberly Herzog-Cohen of Temple Emanu-El.  

Funding will come directly from the CARES Act (and other federal funding the city has available) and will be targeted at households making 80% or below of the area median income and are left out of the federal stimulus CARES Act.  DAI leaders argued that with 50,000 renters in danger of not being able to pay the rent, a large local aid package would be essential.

The City of Dallas expects to start accepting applications as soon as May 4.

Dallas: 50,000 Familias en Riesgo de Desalojo Por No Pagar La Renta, Al Dia Dallas [pdf]


California IAF: Undocumented Workers Deserve More

[Excerpts]

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced plans on April 15 to make $75 million available to help undocumented workers left out of unemployment relief programs like the CARES Act, but California Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) organizations say this is not enough. One LA-IAF leaders, with the rest of the state network, are calling on Governor Newsom to do more for undocumented immigrants.

"Our immigrants make California a beautiful state," said Father Arturo Corral of Our Lady Queen of Angels / La Placita. "We need to always ask [the governor] to do his best."

Leaders with [COPA-IAFOne LA-IAF, Inland Communities Organizing Network (ICON), Bay Area IAF, and Common Ground are calling] for several initiatives to help undocumented workers including: expanding the eligibility of State Disability Insurance to workers unemployed because of Covid-19 but ineligible for unemployment insurance; sending $1,200 to any Californian who qualified for the California Earned Income Tax Credit last year or this year; expanding no-cost to low-cost hotel options to agricultural workers; making more money available to food banks and school districts feeding students.

[Photo by Chava Sanchez, LAist]

Not 'Second-Class Human Beings': Immigrants Sidelined by Coronavirus Get Cash, Community SupportLAist [pdf]

Newsom Announces Covid-19 Relief For Undocumented Workers; Advocates Say It's Inadequate, Monterey County Weekly [pdf]

California Bishops Ask Governor to Increase Aid to Undocumented and Low-Wage Workers During Pandemic, California Catholic Conference of Bishops [pdf]

Letter to Governor NewsomCalifornia IAF


AMOS Leverages Solutions for Iowans Struggling to File for Unemployment

Update: As a result of AMOS' public action, Iowa Workforce Development Office announced it would hire an additional 100 temporary workers to handle calls, change its website and phone system, and address language barriers and eligibility questions.  

[Excerpt]

Out of the 50 refugee clients she’s helped file for unemployment, Abigail Sui said only 20 of them have received money from claims so far.

Language barriers, troubles navigating Iowa Workforce Development’s website and phone complications have left some members of Iowa’s refugee community without the money they need to support their families while they’re temporarily laid off from work due to COVID-19, Sui said.

These are some of the struggles A Mid-Iowa Organizing Strategy, also known as “AMOS,” hopes to bring to light during a virtual day of action with its members on Tuesday over Zoom.

AMOS, an organization made up of churches and non-profit groups is hosting a “virtual accountability action,” so local legislators can hear about some of the barriers Iowans face filing for unemployment.

“We knew there were people really struggling to navigate the system,” said Sally Boeckholt, a leader with AMOS and a member of First Unitarian Church of Des Moines. “There are real people being affected and sometimes those are the stories that don’t really get heard.”

[Photo by Charlie Neibergall, AP Photo]

Group Seeks Solutions for Iowans Struggling To File For Unemployment, Iowa Capital Dispatch [pdf]


Colorado IAF: Coloradans Facing Threat of Eviction, Foreclosure Cry Out for Relief

[Excerpt below]

Despite Gov. Polis’ forceful encouragement to local governments, county courts and landlords to halt evictions, tenants still are getting threats to pay now or get out! 

It’s no wonder people are clamoring for rent strikes, mortgage forbearance and other measures.

Coloradans for the Common Good (CCG), a broad-based, nonpartisan organizing strategy with member congregations, unions and civic organizations, is demanding an immediate statewide moratorium on evictions and a long-term plan to help the housing industry get back on its feet. 

With roughly half of all tenants renting from small landlords, who own one to 10 units, freezing or forgiving rent means mom and pop landlords are at risk of foreclosure.

Without a long-term solution in place, we will see landlords demanding rent and a tsunami of evictions once a moratorium is lifted. 

To address the underlying issues, clergy and civic leaders working with CCG are asking banks, credit unions and landlord associations to join us in crafting solutions that are effective, collaborative and just.

Opinion: Coloradans Facing Threat of Eviction Cry Out for Relief, The Colorado Sun [pdf]